Bioplastic feedstock production from microalgae with fuel co-products: A techno-economic and life cycle impact assessment

Braden D. Beckstrom, Michael H. Wilson, Mark Crocker, Jason C. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


The current and future consumption of petroleum-based plastics, which will be 20% of global annual oil comsumption by 2050, is leading to the investigation and development of feedstock alternatives. Algae-based plastics offer a promising substitute that would decrease oil consumption, improve environmental impact, and in some cases even improve plastic performance. This study investigates the economic viability and environmental impact of an algae biorefinery that integrates the complementary functions of bioplastic feedstock (BPFS) and fuel production. The BPFS and biofuel biorefinery modeled herein includes nine different production scenarios. Performance of the facility was validated based on experimental systems with modeling work focusing on mass and energy balances of all required sub-processes in the production pathway. Results show that the minimum selling price of the BPFS is within the realm of economic competition with prices as low as $970 USD tonne 1. Additionally, life cycle impact assessment results indicate drastic improvements in performance of the produced BPFS, with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ranging between 67 and 116% compared to a petroleum-based plastic feedstock. These results indicate that an algae biorefinery focused on BPFS production and fuels has the potential to operate both economically and sustainably. Sensitivity analysis results, alternative co-products (given that fuels represent minimal value) and product market potential are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101769
JournalAlgal Research
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FE0029623 . This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof. The authors also gratefully acknowledge Amber Beckstrom for support given and Danna Quinn for editing. Appendix A

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Biofuel
  • Biorefinery
  • Carbon utilization
  • Commodity acids
  • Protein
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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